Delve Readers Seminars engage readers in exploring challenging books in lively discussion-based seminars led by an experienced scholar.
Each seminar is limited to 16 participants who will complete designated reading in advance and come prepared to discuss the text in an informal, friendly atmosphere. No previous knowledge of the author or text is required. Delve is a perfect combination of a book group and a college English class, but we promise not to assign any essays.
Our traditional Delve seminars meet once a week for 6 weeks. Read below for brief seminar descriptions. Remember to enroll early; each seminar is limited to 16 participants. Seminars are typically held at the Literary Arts event space (925 SW Washington St, Portland) and tuition is $195 unless otherwise noted.
Michel Houellebecq: Agitator of Ideas
Tuesdays, January 3–February 7, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Multi-awarded author Michel Houellebecq is one of the most controversial writers of the last twenty years. Considered the enfant terrible of contemporary French literature, his work has been highly praised and harshly criticized by serious literary critics for the same reasons: his nihilistic and despairing view of love, sex, religion, and free market. In this seminar we will explore his early novel The Elementary Particles and his most recent Submission.
Guide: Graphic designer, writer, translator, and photographer, Ivonne Saed has extensively explored the crossroads between the visual and the textual, both in her creative work and in teaching. She is the author of the novel Triple crónica de un nombre (Triple Chronicle of a Name)—Juan Rulfo National Award for First Novel in Mexico, and the non-fiction Sobre Paul Auster: Autoría, distopía y textualidad (On Paul Auster: Authorship, Dystopia and Textuality). She has co-authored other fiction and non-fiction books, and has published book reviews, short fiction and photos in several newspapers and magazines in Mexico and the US. She currently teaches Latin American Literature at Marylhurst University and she’s been a Delve guide for several years. Her work has been staged with Jewish Theatre Collaborative (Portland) and Jewish Women’s Theatre (Los Angeles). Once a month, she talks about literature in FA Radio’s Letra Viva on KBOO.FM, Portland.
Thomas Hardy—Early and Late Novels: Under the Greenwood Tree and Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Mondays, January 9–February 13, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Thomas Hardy was one of the greatest 19th century novelists and also one of the greatest 20th century poets, giving up fiction for poetry after the disastrous public reception in 1895 of the sexually frank and shocking Jude the Obscure.
For this Delve, however, we will be studying books at both ends of Hardy’s novel-writing career: his second book, Under the Greenwood Tree (1872), a lesser-known shorter work that some would call Hardy’s “happy” book, and his penultimate and probably best-known novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), a tragedy of a young woman who, like Othello, “loved not wisely but too well.”
Along the way during our six weeks together we will also examine several poems that relate to these novels and underscore themes that dominated Hardy’s fifty-year writing career: his beloved English county of Dorset, the setting for virtually all of his novels, stories, and poems; the cruelty of fate; and the turbulence that emerges as a pagan/Christian and agrarian past mixes with an industrial, impersonal, and uncertain future.
Guide: Christopher Lord is the author of the Dickens Junction mystery series, has led several Delve seminars on Dickens and detective fiction, and is a past recipient of a Literary Arts Fellowship for Writers.
Virgil: The Aeneid
Wednesdays, January 11–February 15, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Because in literary history you can’t swing a cat without hitting an Aeneid reference…because it is a poem of explanations that raises profound questions…because it is a synthesis of myth and history, complete with a journey to the underworld…because schoolchildren wrote parts of the story on the walls of Pompeii…because to T.S. Eliot, “Virgil was, among all authors of classical antiquity, one for whom the world made sense, for whom it had order and dignity, and for whom, as for no one before his time except the Hebrew prophets, history had meaning”…because the poem continues to spark political arguments over 2000 years after his death…because, as both a telling and a celebration of the origins of Rome and of Augustus’ family, it’s a pretty good story…because to John Dryden, “There is an inimitable grace in Virgil’s words, and in them principally consists that beauty which gives so inexpressible a pleasure to him who best understands their force”…because Virgil himself wrote, “Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious”…you should join us in reading the Aeneid.
Guide: Lucas Bernhardt holds MAs in English and in Writing from Portland State University, as well as an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He manages the Portland State University Writing Center and is managing editor of Propeller Quarterly, a literature and art magazine.
Cease Not Until Death: WINTER 2017
Thursdays, January 12–February 23, 2017 6–8 p.m. (no meeting February 9)
Location: Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave, Portland OR 97205
Death comes for all of us, and for those we love—often after long bouts of debilitating disease. What role can art and literature play in understanding and enduring these losses? In this seminar, we’ll consider how illness and the end of life are represented across genres, with explorations of Atul Gawande’s nonfiction study Being Mortal; Paul Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air; Scott McPherson’s award-winning play Marvin’s Room; Reviewing the Skull, a poetry collection by five-time ovarian cancer patient Judy Rowe Michaels; Lisa Genova’s novel Still Alice and its film adaptation; and numerous works of visual art in Portland Art Museum’s collections. How do these representations move, enlighten, engage, and assure us? How can they shape our own experience of sickness, death, and grief?
NOTE: Capacity for this seminar is 20 participants. Please indicate whether you are a Portland Art Museum member in the “Order Notes” section of the checkout process.
Guide: A former faculty member at UCLA and Reed College, Lois Leveen is the author of the novels Juliet’s Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser. She has written about literature, history, and culture for The Atlantic, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.
JUST ANNOUNCED! What Is Left Unsaid: Unconventional Storytelling in Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation and Other Contemporary Works by Women
Tuesdays, February 21 – April 4 (No Meeting March 28th) 6:30-8:30 p.m.
“What I try to capture as a writer is the feeling of being alive, of being awake. Because of this, I’m more apt to follow the wisp of a thought or a half-glimpsed image than chart a sequential series of events. But I absolutely believe in momentum. Momentum is not plot, but it has that same quality of urgency and forward motion.” — Jenny Offill
In Jenny Offill’s second novel, Dept. of Speculation, she distills her narrative about new motherhood, an endangered marriage, and a crisis of identity into hundreds of episodic vignettes—some of which are only a sentence long, while others make up the length of a paragraph. For the reader, it feels as if we are delving into a person’s riveting journal that brims with disconnected musings, quotations, trivia, secrets, memories, and experiences. Eventually, a story forms from these juxtaposed fragments, and the space in between them becomes just as important as the prose itself because it invites the reader to draw the necessary connections that deepen the story and propel it forward. How does a writer employ compression and fragmentation while preserving momentum and emotional velocity in a story? What is gained and lost when a writer intentionally sheds storytelling conventions? How do these techniques reflect or enhance (or detract from) the content and themes of the work? Offill’s novel is a slim 177 pages and a fast read, so we will have time to examine shorter works and excerpts by other contemporary women writers who employ similar techniques and explore similar themes such as Mary Robison, Jennifer Egan, Renata Adler, Helen Oyeyemi, Maggie Nelson, Zadie Smith, Lydia Davis, Sandra Cisneros, Dao Strom, and Anne Carson.
Guide: Danielle Frandina is an educator, writer and editor who made Portland her home four years ago. She earned her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts and taught at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, where she chaired the school’s humanities department. Danielle is the founder, curator and host of the Portland reading series Tell It Slant, which is now in its third year collaborating with a variety of communities and venues to feature emerging artists. She is currently working on a collection of personal essays about her hometown and the people in it. Her stories and essays can be found in Numero Cinq, Avalon Magazine, Conceptions Southwest and 1001.
Another Kind of Life: Examining The Short Fiction of John Cheever & James Salter
Mondays, February 27–April 3, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
James Salter and John Cheever are widely considered to be masters of the short story. Though wildly different in their approaches, both writers are concerned with the forces—external and internal, seen and unseen—that shape our lives. Whether it’s the catty neighbor at a dinner party or some dark force that calls to us in the night, Cheever and Salter recognized that none of us escape the trials of life, no matter how hard we try (or how much gin we drink).
In this series, we’ll dive into Cheever’s and Salter’s short fiction and examine how their characters are so closely observed and intimately portrayed yet remain universal, how fate seems to lurk in even the smallest gestures, and how their heroes’ and heroines’ desperate attempts to prevent the inevitable reveal the best and worst about humanity. Above all, we’ll take a look at the values their characters adopt in order to survive—their code, their way of living—that either sinks them or pushes them through to a kind of hard-earned grace.
Guide: Jay Clarke is a writer, musician, composer, and former English professor. He holds an MA in English from Oregon State University.
David Foster Wallace: Short[-er][-ish] Works
Wednesdays, March 1–April 5, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Where in previous seminars Delvers have tackled the encyclopedic novel Infinite Jest, this one will focus on a small selection of David Foster Wallace’s short stories and essays. In sampling from and hopscotching through his major prose collections—Girl With Curious Hair, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Consider the Lobster, Oblivion—we’ll get much more than the trace of a single writer’s career. While it’s true that many consider Wallace’s novels to be among the most important work written in the United States over past thirty years, some of his most resonant insight into what it means to be human is found in his shorter prose work.
Guide: Trevor Dodge is the author of three collections of short fiction (Ruiner, The Laws of Average and Everyone I Know Lives On Roads), a novella (Yellow #10), and collaborator on the writing anti-textbook Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Writing. His most recent work has appeared in The Butter, Little Fiction, Hobart, and Western Humanities Review. Trevor studied with David Foster Wallace in Illinois State University’s graduate program from 1996-1998, and now teaches writing, literature, and comics studies at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City.
Thomas Pynchon: Mason & Dixon
Tuesdays, March 21–May 2, 2017 7–9 p.m. (no meeting April 11)
Mason & Dixon appeared twenty years ago when Thomas Pynchon’s reputation was largely based on his astonishing Gravity’s Rainbow. In the years since, Mason & Dixon has come to be regarded as perhaps Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece, and it is a book that readers interested in modern American literature should know better. This post-modernist retelling of the adventures of the two British astronomers who established the Mason-Dixon line expands, in Pynchon’s hands, into a rollickingly inventive, deeply felt reinterpretation of American history. The novel’s abundant creativity—its array of characters, narrative voices, digressive tales, recovered contexts, and beautiful writing—can at times seem bewildering, but it’s clearly the work of a master story-teller who means to encourage his readers to imagine not only the American past but also the American present in new ways.
Guide: Christopher Zinn was educated at Georgetown and New York University. An independent literature scholar, he has taught at Reed College and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. He currently teaches humanities at the Portland Waldorf High School. 2016/2017 marks his tenth season as a Delve Guide.
“All the world began with a yes”: Three Novels by Clarice Lispector
Mondays, April 10 – May 1, 2017 6:30–8:30 p.m. (four meetings)
Fleeing pogroms during the Russian Civil War, Clarice Lispector’s family immigrated to Brazil when she was only one year old. Over the course of her life, she became one of the most acclaimed literary voices in Brazil. Now, Lispector’s work is undergoing a resurgence in American letters, with New Directions curating new translations of her work. We will read three of these translations of her most famous works: The Passion According to G.H., Água Viva, and The Hour of the Star.
Guide: Kelly Austin has graduate degrees in literature from Claremont, Cambridge, and UCLA. Most recently she taught Modern and Contemporary Latin American Literature at the University of Chicago, focusing on poetry in the Americas and translation studies. She has also led literature seminars for the Illinois Humanities Council’s Odyssey Project, Newberry Library, and the Chicago Humanities Festival.
SOLD OUT! The following seminars are sold out. Please contact Program Manager Jennifer Gurney at email@example.com or at 503-227-2583 x 101 to be added to a waitlist.
Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex
Saturdays, March 4–25, 2017 10:30 a.m. –12:30 p.m. (four meetings)
“I hesitated a long time before writing a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially for women; and it is not new. Enough ink has flowed over the quarrel about feminism; it is now almost over: let’s not talk about it anymore. Yet it is still being talked about. And the volume of idiocies churned out over this past century do not seem to have clarified the problem.” Thus begins Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 opus The Second Sex, a work that helped spur second wave feminism and inspired Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique.
In this seminar, we will read the newer unabridged translation cover to cover in order to follow de Beauvoir’s full investigations into the notion of the feminine and women philosophically, biologically, historically, religiously, socially, and on, exploring the writing that sought to correct for the paucity of books on women actually written by women, and served as a lightning rod so many works to come.
Guide: Satya Doyle Byock is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in downtown Portland. Her previous Delve Seminars have included Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces and Carl Jung’s Red Book. Her essays and nonfiction have been published in Psychological Perspectives, Oregon Humanities, The Hairpin, and elsewhere. Her essay “Going Astray” was listed as a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays, 2015.
Contact Delve Program Manager Jennifer Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 503-227-2583 x 101 with any questions.